A Successful Public History Job Search Workshop

Kudos to Profs. Daniel Vivian and Lara Kelland, Department of History, for coordinating a successful “Public History Job Search: A One-Day Workshop for Graduate Students"

On Friday, October 24, the public history programs at UofL, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Northern Kentucky University hosted their first workshop of this kind. It was intended for students who will soon be on the job market and recent grads who are still searching for positions or interested in career advancement.  It was also of interest to undergrads considering careers in public history. Overall, the day gave students a good sense of what skills are in demand, what employers look for, how to apply for jobs, and how to prepare for interviews.

Says one UofL history alumna that attended the workshop, “Preparing students for the workforce, especially in History programs, isn’t necessarily common, and I think this workshop will undoubtedly have a positive impact on those in attendance.  Bravo, and again, thank you for including me.  It hits home.”

The term “public history” refers to the practice of history for and with people in the community and outside the academy.  It includes work in museums, archives, historical societies, neighborhood associations, preservation offices, cultural centers, government agencies, etc.  By definition, the work of public historians is community engaged scholarship. The goal of this work is to enhance the life of the community by helping local people to understand and build on their history.

Significantly, UofL public history students are continually doing research on local and regional topics, usually with public interpretation of some kind in mind.  They are not researching histories without strong connections to Louisville and the surrounding area.  Rather, they are exploring local and regional histories in new ways, revealing their relevance, and generating public interest in them.

The Public History Job Search forum provided students with guidance about how to put the skills acquired in the Department of History’s public history certificate and masters programs to use in fulfilling, productive careers. Louisville is the home of a large number of historic sites, historical societies, and history museums, as well as cultural institutions with a historical focus, relative to its population. The public history program of the Department of History contributes to the development of local and regional institutions by providing them with a strong supply of well-trained professionals and building ongoing networks of support and cooperation with those professionals once they are placed.  Attendance at the workshop was also open to area professionals, providing them with the opportunity to refresh their job market skills, and as important to provide an opportunity for our students to network with representatives of local institutions. In terms of direct benefits to Kentuckians, the training of public historians at UofL yields strong results.  The Department of History continually works directly with, and routinely places people at, institutions within the state, and its general goals include development of a more robust historical culture in the Louisville metro area.